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Carter Wilson is the USA Today and #1 Denver Post bestselling author of seven critically acclaimed, standalone psychological thrillers, as well as numerous short stories. He is an ITW Thriller Award finalist, a four-time winner of the Colorado Book Award, and his novels have received multiple starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. His seventh novel, The Dead Husband, will be launched in May 2021 by Poisoned Pen Press. Carter lives in Colorado.

Connect with Carter Wilson: Website | Facebook | Instagram

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Carter Wilson contributed AREA CODE 666 to this collection.

Video Interview

Transcript

Please note, transcripts are generated by an automated program called Happy Scribe not a human and only lightly edited.

Alan Petersen
You are listening to meet the thriller author, the podcast where I interview Writers of Mysteries, Thrillers and suspense books. I’m host Alan Petersen and this is episode number one hundred and forty eight. In this episode of the podcast will be meeting Carter Wilson, who is the USA Today and number one, and Denver Post bestselling author of seven critically acclaimed standalone psychological thrillers, as well as numerous short stories. He’s an ITW thriller Award finalist, a four time winner of the Colorado Book Award, and his novels have received multiple starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal. His seventh novel, The Dead Husband, will be published on May 4th by Poison Press. Carter lives in Colorado and had a great time talking to him about his books, his writing process and a lot more. So stay tuned for that interview here. In a moment for show notes and for archive of my other interviews, go to THRILLINGREADS.COM/LINKS and you’ll get access to all my links there from our website, my mailing list, the whole nine yards.

So go check out that at THRILLINGREADS.COM/LINKS. All right. Here is my interview with Carter Wilson.

Carter, welcome to the podcast.

Carter Wilson
Thanks, Alan, it’s nice to be here.

Alan Petersen
All right. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your journey to getting your first book published?

Carter Wilson
Yeah, I you know, I certainly had didn’t have aspirations of being a writer ever. I grew up in Los Angeles and I went to school in New York and I studied hotel administration. And that led me into I worked in hotel operations for a couple of years. But I basically got into consulting for the hospitality industry.

And in my early 30s, like literally one day, you know, during the class for continuing education, for a license I used to have, I was bored and I kind of posed myself a riddle, a murder mystery riddle.

And I thought, OK, I’m going to spend the last couple of hours of class trying to answer this riddle that I just made up just to keep me entertained. And I couldn’t figure out the answer. So I went home and it kept it bothered me that I couldn’t figure it out. So I started kind of writing out, you know. This whole back story of, you know, all these events that would lead to solve this stupid riddle. And within 90 days, that turned into a 400 page manuscript and I had no idea what I was doing, I had never taken any kind of writing classes.

And, you know, I could probably count on one hand the number of books that I read in college that that were fiction. And that kind of started at all, you know, and I had this pretty strong business background. So I started learning about the publishing industry and figuring out, well, what do I do now? May I learn about how to find an agent and all that kind of stuff? So it just, you know, in that book, never sold, but that’s what started it at all.

I just it was just this light switch kind of turned on in me, which has never happened before or since.

Alan Petersen
That’s pretty impressive, too, because usually you have like a ton of unpublished manuscripts you never finish. You took that one all the way to the end. That’s pretty impressive for the first first try.

Carter Wilson
It was funny because I was almost not even almost I was actually embarrassed that I was writing. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t because I didn’t want to be that person who tell them I’m writing this novel and then a year and a how’s the novel going? And you say, I never finished it. I literally I mean I kept from my wife at the time. She had no idea I was writing this manuscript because I was so convinced I wouldn’t finish it.

And I was thoroughly convinced that it was terrible, which it was. But, you know, so it’s taken me a long time to kind of get past that feeling of insecurity, which a lot of writers carry along with them.

Alan Petersen
Oh, yes. I’ve interviewed many, many authors in this podcast and everybody is like, yeah, they got the imposter syndrome no matter what level of success, which is kind of encouraging for me as a writer to like, OK, I’m not alone.

Carter Wilson
Well, I think it’s it’s funny because, you know, I came at it from such an angle of, you know, literally kind of just being dropped into it. Right. So without any experience, I really had the I think it was valid to have imposter syndrome because I didn’t know anything. So it was learning from scratch. And so but but the positive of that is that with all the rejection I’ve received over time, you can kind of embrace that better knowing that you suck and say like, oh, help me get better editors, agents, whoever’s writing me this three paragraph rejection letter.

And you start to if you if you can.

If you can embrace the rejection, it’s so meaningful, right, you can learn so much from everyone telling, you know, not just motivation, but actually real advice about your work. Yeah, especially when they put a little.

Alan Petersen
Yeah. Like you said, like a little paragraph or something. And they’re like a little criticism. Constructive criticism is also helpful.

Carter Wilson
So my first three books didn’t sell. So, so I was and I was always astounded that these New York editors were writing me like literally three or four paragraphs, talk to my agent about why they didn’t want my book and I was like jeeze, not only did they read it, they really telling me why they didn’t want it.

And and it was so useful. You know, it’s no fun being rejected. But if you can if you can mine it for old, you know, it’s it’s great.

Alan Petersen
So you said you weren’t much of a fiction reader. Why do you think you you were drawn towards mysteries and that I mean, I wasn’t much of an anything reader.

Carter Wilson
I read a little bit in high school. And, you know, I was living by myself in San Francisco in my 20s. And I kind of I kind of discovered fiction at that point. But I always had I always had a thing for, like, you know, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. But but I I think I you know, I think I have a dark side like we all do. But I, I like writing about conflict.

I like writing about struggle. I like finding I like finding the character who I maybe identify with and then throw like horrible things at them and just see what they do.

Because it’s interesting to me because I like that feeling of what I do in this situation.

So while my stuff is dark, it’s really about this to me, please. It’s about the struggle of kind of getting to the light. And that to me is interesting and always has been.

Alan Petersen
Yeah, you’re known for your psychological thrillers and your latest one, The Dead Husband is going to be launching on May 4th. So by the time this airs it’ll be out so people they could check that out. So that’s exciting. Is it is it always kind of nerve wracking, the leading up to the launch or how does that feel?

Carter Wilson
Yeah, it’s funny. I just actually wrote about this, but there’s you know, this is my seventh. So there are some things that are, you know, don’t carry the same weight that they once did. But there are other things like, you know, a couple of months before is when you start getting the trade reviews and you’re like, oh, I hope they don’t hate it. So once you got to clear that hurdle, that kind of feels good and, you know, trying to see what the presales are and stuff like that.

But the further along I’ve gotten, the more I’ve just kind of been able to let things go. You know, I do what I need to do. I work with my PR team and everything, and for sure I promote.

But I also try not to obsess about it and hope everyone likes it because, you know, try to put it out there in the wild and, you know, you kind of release it, you know, and hopefully it’ll do well. But, you know, I, I try not to obsess over it.

Alan Petersen
And it’s all different this year now with the whole pandemic thing going on. So like a lot of virtual Zooms like this is probably what it is for.

Carter Wilson
Sure. For sure. Which is kind of nice because, you know, I had a lot of friends who went through it last year, you know, book releases during 2020, which I did have one come out on 2020, but all because it’s made all of my events are still online. And I think, you know, unfortunately, it’s kind of towards the end of all of this. So people are really like sick of being online. But that being said, you reach a much broader audience, right? I have fans who, you know, are beyond just, you know, where I live. And that’s nice to, you know, have them be able to partake in a book launch as well.

Alan Petersen
So can you tell us a little bit about THE DEAD HUSBAND, what it’s about, how it all came together for you?

Carter Wilson
So I don’t outline. So every story I have is just kind of a germ of an idea and sometimes it’s just an opening scene. And I, you know, just like just like that day where I posed myself a riddle trying to figure out that riddle with the front page. That’s how I write today. I like I usually just set up a scene. I’m like, I don’t know who these people are or why they’re doing what they’re doing. But that kind of is interesting to me.

The scene and then the rest of the book is trying to figure that out.

That husband was a little bit different. I knew a couple of things going in. I knew I wanted to create my own city. I’d never done that before my own town in New Hampshire. And I wanted to write a book about two sisters. And I don’t know why that just kind of struck me as like I want to write about two sisters. And I decided that they were going to be estranged and that one of them was going to return home to the childhood town that she grew up into, the childhood home that she grew up in, this huge mansion for whatever circumstances.

And I decided, oh, her husband died, her husband died accidentally, and now she’s returning home. And and I just thought there would be a lot of conflict there. That’s why did she leave in the first place. And so. I wanted to make sure there was something in the past that drove her from the house, so that was kind of just the the initial seeds forward and just kind of grew from there. And it’s the first time I’ve actually written with a with a secondary character point of view from a detective.

So that was my kind of first foray into a procedural. And that was fun to do as well. And your books and your books are development stand alone so far, right?

Alan Petersen
So every time you just get an idea and you have to start with a blank page, kind of curious about that was as a series.

Carter Wilson
Yeah, well, that’s that’s one of the attractions to me. Right. It’s like, you know, as much as you try to and after a number of books, you start to get an idea of like, OK, this is this is who my audience is and this is what they like and this is what I like. But I do write a lot kind of for myself. And so to me, it’s super exciting to like. Just discover new worlds.

That’s why I very rarely write about places I know I’m like, I’m going to set it in Manchester, New Hampshire. Anything about Manchester, but I’m going to go there for a few days and figure it out.

And to me, it’s just that the process of discovering a whole new stories is exciting because I only write for about an hour a day. And so I don’t think about my stories at all until I sit down and then I’m in this world. And to me, it’s just an escape. So if it’s unfamiliar to me, it’s exciting because I get to explore as opposed to oh yeah, I totally know everything about this. So it’s challenging. But it’s it’s it’s like reading a book.

I want to explore whole new worlds that that I didn’t read about before.

Alan Petersen
That’s an interesting hour a day because so many people say I don’t have the time or anything. So what’s your writing process like when you’re in the project?

Carter Wilson
Yeah, I’m a firm believer in that. The idea of there not being enough time is is an excuse. I truly believe there’s enough time. And everyone’s lives to do what they’re passionate about, right, and if there’s not enough time or if that’s excuse you’re using, then it’s a signal that maybe it’s just not something you’re passionate about, because I still have a full time job in the hospitality world. So I write an hour a day and, you know, I knock out probably if I’m writing, writing, you know, I try to do 500 words or so, but I might be editing.

But, you know, my goal is to get a book done in about, you know, nine to ten months. And then, you know, I need time for, you know, doing more drafts and getting feedback from my agent. So, you know, really a book a year finished, ready to go is my goal. And with an hour a day, seven days a week, it’s totally achievable.

It’s not that hard. All that being said, it’s not like on the weekends I write six hours because I just don’t have that muscle. I can’t I lose my I lose my creativity and I just get tired and it just turns to shit. So but, you know, hours usually pretty quality.

Alan Petersen
And what is what do you use to write your books? I was curious about things like word.

Carter Wilson
Yeah. I have just basic word template that I have that’s you know, I don’t use any software that helps me, you know, figure out character arcs or anything like that. And I just, you know, I’ll have another document that just I just titled Scrap and I just throw ideas in there constantly. And sometimes I go through and clean it back up.

But I rarely, you know, figure out what, you know, even the next three chapters are going to be much less. The ending is pretty cool.

Alan Petersen
And do you like do you go back or do you like you don’t go back to finish writing a manuscript?

Carter Wilson
Yeah, it depends. I might be 200 pages in and feel a little bit disembodied from the work and feel like. Right. I need to go through and as I write the second half, I need to make sure I really understand what I wrote in the first half.

So I will go back through. I’m doing that right now with something just a.

Just because, you know, I know I’m going to have to change some of this stuff, so let’s go ahead and do it now, but yeah, I think it’s very important to finish it. And a lot of people struggle to finish manuscripts. And I always tell them, like, it doesn’t matter if it’s terrible, just finish it. You can always go back, but you’re always going to regret not finishing it.

Alan Petersen
And I read your reviews, that you get the kudos for your pacing, so kind of curious about that. Is that something that you work on or like you tell us a little bit about the pacing in your books.

Carter Wilson
Yeah, I’m I’m a firm believer in cutting things out. In fact, I have a tattoo on my arm. This is Kill Your Darlings that you know, my kids were kind of curious why I got that when I first got you. It’s you.

You know, I love the challenge of looking at a sentence and going back and say, how can I say that in as few words as possible? How can I how can I create new verbs and that, you know, take ten words and give me the same impact for the economy of one?

You know, I just think, first of all, it’s a challenge. But I love you know, I I just love being able to burn through through a book quickly, but absorbing everything. So I don’t I won’t spend a lot of time describing something. But when I describe it, I want to make sure it’s evocative and almost visceral, like you get it hopefully without me having to go into like a whole paragraph describing it. So some and sometimes, you know, when you’re describing a smell can be much more powerful than describing, you know, what something looks like. So I’ll I’ll go there. But yeah. So I really I really cut a lot out and what that what that ends up doing. And I am a big fan of short chapters and what that ends up doing is people who, you know, inadvertently I never thought about this, but people will tell me, like, I couldn’t put your book down because I’m like, oh, I’m only a page away from the end of the chapter. And then they keep going because I go to the next chapters, only four pages.

And so it really kind of almost forces them to keep reading if it’s if it’s interesting. But that wasn’t my intention. But I hear that quite a bit. It might go well. That’s kind of interesting.

Alan Petersen
The James Patterson outline style, that’s how he does his chapters they are like a page or two sometimes. And it’s working OK for him to.

Carter Wilson
Yeah. Yeah. Well at that level. But like when you write you should for me I if I’m writing well I can hear beats, I can hear the beats of the words and is and it’s rhythmic and it’s and it’s almost like lyrics. Right. Like OK, this is a fast paced scene, it’s a scary scene, it’s a scene of paranoia.

This is this is almost the BPM that I should be feeling when I’m reading this to, you know, for myself. And I can feel when it’s working and I can feel when it’s not. So that’s why I try to strive for more.

Alan Petersen
And I the of people watching the video versus the audio, but the I love your your bookshelf back there. You have a lot of books now, so. Yeah. So, so you’re a big reader now it looks like.

Carter Wilson
I do. Yeah. Yeah I do really. I read every day, I mean and I have read every day for, for, you know probably thirty years but but I typically I read in bed, if I’ve read during the day I feel guilty because I feel like I should be writing. But when I read in bed at night it depends, you know, it could be five minutes because I’m tired. So sometimes it’ll take me a while to get through a book. Sometimes I burned through it faster and easier.

Alan Petersen
Do you read fiction, thrillers and mysteries?

Alan Petersen
I really don’t. Yeah, very, very rarely read certainly thrillers. I read thrillers if I’m asked to blurb, but I read a lot of nonfiction. I’m a big fan of nonfiction biographies I love but and literary fiction or whatever. People just give me stuff. So I’m like, oh, it’s interesting. So I’ll read it. So I’m not to be too picky, but I tend not to read thrillers.

I was curious, you had mentioned that your husband, your characters are two sisters. How’s that from a male writer getting into the head of female characters? Is that the challenge? Is you worried about that? How’s that work?

Carter Wilson
It can be. It was my my third book. My third published book. I was the first time I shifted to write fully from the point of view of a female lead.

And it was very freeing because, you know, when you write from your own gender, in my opinion or in my experience, I tend to like, oh, this person sounds just like me. And people will even say, oh, that person sounded just like you and I don’t really like that. So I’m like, I want to be somebody totally different than who I am. And so I started writing and I’ve written several books from a female point of view, and I love it.

I you know, and that’s not to say it’s easy, but it’s what I have learned is, you know, I’m dealing with people who are in extraordinary circumstances, usually extraordinarily harsh circumstances. And I don’t sit there and think about, well, what would a woman do versus a man? I think about what would a human being in this circumstance do.

And that frees me to kind of just explore humanity rather than, you know, you know, perspective from a particular gender. And, you know, my my girlfriend is the first person who reads my manuscript. She edits it. You know, my agent’s a woman, my editors, a woman. So I have plenty of people who give me who are there for great feedback. But it allows me to to create a voice that’s wholly different, I think, from my own.

Alan Petersen
And how about the the pandemic that we’ve been going through? Has that affected you? Is that changed your writing process or your system or.

Carter Wilson
Yeah, it hasn’t really. You know, it’s I think. You know, I’ve still been able to manage my quotas, you know, we’ve all had been healthy, you know, in my circle, you know, it always comes up the idea of like, well, you know, how do we how do we write about this? Do we write about this? The dead husband actually, I ended up having to set back in time a couple of years because it was bleeding into 2020 towards the end of it. And, you know, that’s, I think, a little jarring for readers to be like, what, they’re just out of the restaurant. That doesn’t make sense. So that’s a little bit of a that’s a little bit of a struggle.

Like how do we how do we address current day stories? How do people really want to hear about the pandemic? But how can you ignore it? You know, you can’t just not mention it.

So I haven’t had to deal with that too much yet. Actually, what I’m working on now takes place in the 80s.

And so there is there is there is a bit of like just this blessed nostalgia feeling like, oh, do you remember arcade games? And so it’s been it’s been a nice escape for me.

Alan Petersen
Yeah. I remember those days actually having to go someplace physically to an arcade to put quarters into coins in the machine.

Carter Wilson
I just wrote a scene that went on for way too long that I haven’t, you know, cut yet. But we’ll get cut, you know, mall that has an arcade, you know, element to it and just the joy of just writing all that and re researching the games. And just like my you know, because I was a teenager in the 80s, so it was like it was it was it was very cathartic.

Alan Petersen
I can imagine that would be kind of cool. And so. So what are you working on next now? Where are you in your next project?

Carter Wilson
So THE DEAD HUSBAND comes out in May, as you mentioned. So the next book comes out next April. That’s going to be titled The New Neighbor. And again, that also takes place in the same fictitious town in New Hampshire and the same house. This mansion, just a different set of characters. But there is some there are some bleed over with, you know, the new occupants of the house trying to figure out about the history of the house.

And then I had that. I’ll have another book coming out. And sometime in 2023, which is this 80s, one that I’m working on now. So that’s still that’s still about halfway done at this point.

Alan Petersen
And usually you work on two projects at the same time, or you like writing one, editing the other. How does that work?

Carter Wilson
Yeah, I mean, I’ll certainly finish a project, you know, and then it goes to the editor and I won’t sit there and wait. I’ll start writing something new, but then the editor will come back and with your, you know, say your first level edits, which could take a month. And then I just drop what I’m working on. And I spent a month working on that. I can’t juggle two things at once, but but, you know, I will take that month and do that and put that to bed and then move back to the.

So that’s why I’m making that transition right now. Going back to what was this book about it. So it gets a little confusing, but but yeah, I would never write two things at once. I don’t think my brain would would handle that very well.

Alan Petersen
And this is the first time that you had like a common thread in your book since they have all been standalone?

Carter Wilson
Yeah. I mean, I’ll definitely have I definitely had books were all make mention of of events that happened in other books, but it might just be a passing kind of Easter egg kind of a thing. But this is the first that it’s you don’t you won’t need to have read one to read the other. But when you do read both of them, there will be kind of a synergy there that that that I think the readers will get a kick out of.

Alan Petersen
Oh, and you mentioned that you’re the research you went to New Hampshire is that you physically went there and checked it out. Is that you need to do that?

Carter Wilson
Yeah. I mean, I did that more for fun, but it was also like I’m not really familiar with New Hampshire. I don’t have much of a connection to New England. But I like New England as a as a setting, particularly if I’m writing books that take place. Most of my books take place in like a couple of weeks or a month or something like that.

So if that happens to be in the fall and I want to have a little bit of a creepy vibe to the book, I certainly like New England for that. So so, yeah. So I went out there and spent a few days and just kind of skulked about and, you know, is more an excuse than anything. But but there was something kind of to it was just like, OK, this is where she works, this is where she lives and just making those decisions.

Alan Petersen
But you made up the town, though, right, in your book is.

Carter Wilson
Yeah, the town is Burri. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s just kind of creepy little affluent town full of people who know everything about each other.

Alan Petersen
Yeah. I read the blurb. I haven’t read your book yet, but I read the blurb and that was like, oh, that was really fascinating. Like in that whole world of, you know, like a gated community type world.

Carter Wilson
Yeah. And it was fun to actually, like, you know, almost physically map out like, oh, this is the main street here, the stores and. They used that in the book or not, it was kind of neat to just kind of establish that and just like, OK, now this is the world that I’ve created. And if I use this in the next book, you know, now I have a map for it.

Alan Petersen
All right. Before I let you go, I would like to ask my guests about the books. I have aspiring writers on the cover of the podcast. What’s any advice for the aspiring writer? Oh, lots, but I’ll distill it.

Carter Wilson
I mean, kind of the you know, the three things that helped me the most. One just you know, and I’m sure every writer on your podcast says it’s just right. You know, don’t don’t sit there and ruminate about is as good as as bad. It’ll probably be bad, but just. Right. Get it done. And that will take a huge burden off of you. Embrace rejection for sure, because you’re going to probably get a lot of it and there’s a lot of good to be mined from it.

And for me, goal setting was huge. You know, I never started writing that day and say, you know, I’m going to I’m going to become a best selling novelist. I start writing that day, so I’m going to finish this and I finish it.

I’m going to get an agent little steps, you know, and and before you know it, you’re going to be, you know, publishing. But, you know, having those goals and sticking to them really is important.

Alan Petersen
Yeah, definitely. Baby steps.

Alan Petersen
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I mean, it’s been 18 years for me, you know, so it’s not like I had seven novels done in seven years. So this is it takes time. All right.

Alan Petersen
Well, thanks for being on the podcast THE DEAD HUSBAND is out May 4th so go check it out. And thanks so much, Carter, for being on the podcast. Good talking to you.

Carter Wilson
Awesome. Thanks, Alan. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Alan Petersen
Thank you for listening to this episode of Meet the Thriller author. If you have a moment, please do check out THRILLINGREADS.COM/LINKS For links where you’ll be able to rate and review this podcast or simply rate this podcast wherever it is that you listen to it, be it Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast, Audible Amazon music, whichever podcast app you prefer, please take a moment to rate this podcast.

It’s the best way to help other fans of Mystery and Thriller books to find the podcast. And it helps me get the word out and the best way to support the podcast. So I do appreciate that. And if you’re interested, you can join my thrilling reads mailing list. You’ll find the sign up form at THRILLINGREADS.COM/LINKS. Once you subscribe for free, you’ll be notified about discounts and deals on great books in the mystery thriller and crime fiction genres.

You’ll also find my social media links and my author website over at THRILLINGREADS.COM/LINKS. So check it out and say hi. All right, take care and stay safe until we meet again on the next episode of Meet the Thriller Author.

About the Author
I write thriller and crime fiction novels and host the Meet the Thriller Author podcast where I interview authors of mystery, thriller, and suspense books.

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